MADISON (WITI) — It’s a multi-million dollar business, built on encouraging college students to binge drink, according to university officials.
“I’m Shmacked” video crews have been on college campuses across the country. They were at the University of Wisconsin-Madison at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, creating videos of students drinking during Parent Week.
The videos are being discussed at the Detox Center in Madison where officials say they can see a couple dozen students each weekend, each with blood alcohol contents that are extremely high.
“A lot of times it’s got the potential of being very deadly,” said Allison Maly, the Detox Director.
Those who work with binge drinking at the Center say they try to educate. However it is difficult to compete with the viral “I’m Shmacked” videos on YouTube.
Video crews come to college campuses to photograph drinking parties, sync the video to music and more. “I’m Shmacked” promotes itself as a movement. It even has merchandise.
Meanwhile, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse says an estimated 1,400 college students die from alcohol each year. But officials say sites such as “I’m Shmacked” make it tougher to get out their message of responsibility.
“I’m Shmacked” posts it will come to a campus if a turnout of 3,000 people is promised.
In January 2014, an “I’m Shmacked” cameraman was arrested at a campus in Virginia on charges of conspiracy to start a riot. A few months earlier in Delaware, police initially arrested 25 students and were seeking 44 more after chaos broke out during an “I’m Shmacked” shoot. Several were rugby players accused of disorderly conduct for housing a beer party that officials said led to a near riot. An “I’m Shmacked” photographer was arrested. Ironically, the “I’m Shmacked” video gave police the evidence of who they should arrest.
An “I’m Shmacked’ contact in California at first said he would be interviewed for this story, but then stopped communicating with FOX6 News.
At UW-Madison, officials say the videos aren’t causing the problem, they are just part of it.
Dr. Sarah Van Orman of the University Health Services said, “This idea of portraying college drinking to excess is not new. But with the ease of creating videos, distributing videos, social media, it’s much more easy for someone to quickly produce an image that is all about excessive drinking. It’s all about drinking in really, really dangerous ways.”
What about the future? UW-Madison focuses on education. Any student who ends up in Detox must take a class. Many are fined. There are also new rules when the university serves alcohol at its events.
As for “I’m Shmacked,” a recent announcement brags the franchise has just been valued at $5 million and has taken a cash up-front deal from a new partner.